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Huron County farmers take wind fight to tribunal

Huron County farmers Shawn and Trisha Drennan will be pursuing a Charter of Rights challenge of a large wind electricity-generating project for Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh Township at the Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal.

Shawn Drennan says they must wait until the project developer, K2 Wind Ontario Inc., completes its Renewable Energy Approval from the Ontario Environment Ministry. The couple will have 15 days to file their challenge after, and if, the approval is granted.

K2 Wind Ontario spokesperson Jay Shukin says the company filed its documents and application in November 2012. A technical review that began in February is currently underway.

K2 Wind Ontario Inc. is a partnership of three companies – Capital Power LP, Samsung Renewable Energy Inc. and Pattern Renewable Holdings Canada ULC.

The Drennans initially challenged the project in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. It was heard in Goderich on March 1.

In a written decision handed down May 15, Justice A.D. Grace says the Drennans were premature in asking for an injunction to halt the project until the charter challenge was heard. He says their injunction should be “stayed until the statutory process set forth in the EPA (Environmental Protection Act) is complete.”

Drennan says Grace didn’t dismiss their case but said the charter challenge must go to the tribunal.

Drennan says they’re not surprised by the court’s decision. While they’re not happy they must argue their charter challenge of the project before the tribunal, “it was his ruling so we will follow the process.”

Shukin says the project will generate 270 megawatts of renewable energy using 140 Siemens wind turbines located on private land. K2 Wind has lease agreements with 90 farm families but not all of them will have turbines on their land. The turbines are 99.5 metres above grade and the blades are 49 metres. The project also includes electrical and collection systems, a transformer station, a substation, and a Hydro One switching station to connect the project to an existing 500-kilovolt-transmission line. K2 Wind has a contract with the Ontario Power Authority for the electricity it generates.

About the court case, Shukin says they’re letting the written decision speak for itself.

Shukin says K2 Wind anticipates the ministry will render its decision this summer. If they get their approval, substation construction along with turbine foundations and preliminary access road work will start later this year. Turbine construction is scheduled for next year while the wind farm will be operational sometime in the first half of 2015. K2 Wind’s capital costs are $750 to $900 million, he notes.

The Drennans, who have a 300-acre farm where they grow cash crops, finish 1,200 pigs annually and raise dairy heifers, have a number of concerns about the project, including its effects on their family’s health and their animal’s health as well as its impact on their property values and on the environment. “We are going to be surrounded by K2 infrastructure,” Drennan says.

One of the wind turbines is to be located 650 metres from their house and there will be 12 others within two kilometres, he says. Also, one of the largest substations in Ontario covering 50 to 60 acres will be located about 600 metres away from their home. Another concern they have is with the 230,000-volt buried line in front of their property along with several transmission lines to be located there too.

“And they think we are going to be able to live here,” Drennan says.

Shukin says wind is one of the safest, most environmentally friendly forms of power generation today. It exists in 90 countries. There are thousands of turbines in place and they have been there for many decades. “The balance of scientific evidence and human experience concludes that wind turbines do not adversely affect human health, particularly the sound that comes from” them.

Shukin says that’s the case if project developers follow the regulations “and that is what we’re doing with this project.”